Eugene Gallagher Finn Valley Centre Community Hero
Eugene Gallagher was born in 1948 and raised in Navenny Street, Ballybofey. The eldest son in a family of three to the late Cecil and Minnie Gallagher.
Educated in Sessiaghoneill NS followed by St Mary’s Stranorlar, Eugene then completed his secondary education at the Stranorlar Technical School, where he spent three years. After leaving school he worked in the IAWS Co-op in Ballybofey until it closed and then worked for Jim Hannigan delivering meats throughout the county for 12 years. Following this he worked in Irwin Electrical for 25 years until his retirement from there two years ago.
He met Helen, originally from Ruskey Convoy, and the couple married in 1978 and set up home in the old family home in Navenny Street, before moving to their present day home in Woodlawn, Stranorlar. They raised a family of two boys, Sean and Kevin and now have one grandchild, their granddaughter, Katie whom they dote on.
Eugene’s early interests involved the GAA and from the age of twelve he played in the underage street leagues around Ballybofey for Mac Cumhaills. At this time the underage leagues where just beginning and he spent his time playing for MacCumhaills until he moved to the club senior team in 1966. He was a member of the Sean MacCumhaills team who took home the Donegal Senior Championship in 1971, an achievement he hopes to see MacCumhaills repeat in the coming years. Eugene continued playing until 1978 when after a bad knee injury resulting in surgery, he was forced to retire.
Involvement at Committee Level
He became involved with the Sean MacCumhaills club at an organisational level in 1973, serving as club secretary for two years, and then, in 1975 he took on the responsibility of club treasurer, a position he has held for the last 42 years.
As well as the role of treasurer, Eugene has been involved in many other aspects of the club over the years and looks after the weekly club bingo and club lotto. Match days always require a lot of background work to be done and Eugene spends his time overseeing a range of activities such as organising draws, match programs and tuck shops, as well as getting the field ready for games, putting out flags and dealing with scoreboards. Obviously it isn’t possible for one person to physically do all these things and Eugene is grateful for the team of people who all work together taking on the various responsibilities for different aspects including the tea and food ladies who provide all the food for visiting teams etc. The club has FAS groups organised by Patsy Patton who also put a lot of time into keeping the fields and amenities in tip top shape and preparing dressing rooms in readiness for games and training. Sr. Ann McLoone and avid GAA supporter also helps with recruitment for FAS teams.
As if that wasn’t enough, Eugene has also fulfilled the role of assistant treasurer for the Donegal County Board for three years and also served on the Donegal Fixtures committee for three years. When you combine all of the above roles and think, that at the same time, Eugene was also running the old bar in the GAA for 10 years, organising card playing every Thursday night, opening on match days and booking entertainment, as well as being the treasurer for the bar and holding down a full time job, the mind boggles. The value of that type of commitment is truly amazing and any club or group the length of the country would be delighted to have it.
Outside of all his roles within the GAA Eugene has also served on the Butt Hall Committee for several years and was involved in Church Gate Collections for 10 years, still doing some occasionally when needed.
Community Hero & Other Accolades
It’s no surprise that Eugene has been the recipient of many awards at club level, and on St. Patrick’s Day 2009 he was presented with the President’s Award in Croke Park for services to the GAA. In December 2015 he received the Donegal Lifetime Achievement Award from the Donegal County Board, for services to the GAA for being treasurer for 42 years. These accolades are most definitely deserved for the many hours of voluntary work and time that he has put in over the years.
When I asked Eugene about his aspirations for the future, as always Eugene replies unselfishly, “to continue to pay off the current debts for the club from the new development and for MacCumhaills to win another senior championship’s”. He is also hopeful that this will happen with the development of the younger leagues where there are many up and coming young people showing great promise and excellent coaches who work tirelessly with them, also giving of their time.
As with any organisation it is a massive responsibility keeping facilities up to standard and ensuring activities continue while trying to keep an eye on bottom line, but it’s fair to say that Eugene has this down to a fine art, notwithstanding the amount of hours he puts in on a voluntary basis. Apart from the club having the benefit of having this type of commitment there is also a knock on effect for the whole community, as organisations such as this bring much needed revenue to an area that, for the most part, missed the Celtic Tiger. When you consider that the Tyrone/Donegal game last year brought 18,000 people to the Twin Towns, providing a massive boost to the local economy, and considering that so much work is done behind the scenes by volunteers like Eugene we can count ourselves very lucky to have people with this drive in our midst.
The final question put to Eugene! Is Donegal going to bring SAM back this year? He smiles and without giving any secret’s away, states, that they have a favourable enough draw in Ulster and hopefully will have a home game in Ballybofey, if they meet Fermanagh. It’s then on to try and win the Ulster Championship and bring SAM home in September.
Eugene is to be congratulated on all his hard work within, and for the community, and himself, Helen and all the family are wished the very best for the future.
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